Mystery illness claims life of suffering victim

Elisha Molefe

"God is great. We will survive this somehow," is all Mpele Mafolako could say after the government failed to help him bury his son.

The Department of Social Development and the Ditsobotla district mayor's office refused to assist the 53-year-old father of Bodibe village near Itsoseng in the North West.

His son, Thabo, 19, had succumbed to a mysterious illness that had made his stomach swell three times its normal size after he eaten food at a village funeral months earlier.

Mafolako said he was called by Thusong Hospital staff last Monday, hours after Thabo was admitted, informing him his son had died.

"Somehow, I was expecting that call. But at the same time, I dreaded it. The way my son was suffering, I knew he was going to die," he said.

Mafolako was advised by doctors to speed up the burial because, even in death, Thabo was oozing water through the pores of his skin, which they said could be hazardous.

Mafolako looks after his mentally disabled wife and another son, who is also mentally disabled.

The chores and expences that went with arranging a funeral were just too much for the unemployed, destitute man.

Simon Mmope, Social Development spokesman, said they only helped people to get social grants.

"There is nothing we can do to help; maybe you must try some of his relatives to help," he said.

The same sentiments were shared by the mayor's office.

Tsietsi Mokgabi, the mayor's spokesman, said it is not the duty of the municipality to bury people.

"We are operating on a zero budget. People should not come to us for help of that nature.

"And please do not bother our mayor with this. What you must do is to look for this man's relatives to help," Mokgabi said.

After some calls by the Sowetan, Good Samaritans pledged to help. Thabo will be buried at the Bodibe cemetery on Wednesday.